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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan April 20, 2011
Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson April 20, 2011

Once again, charges over Medicare have kicked into high gear.

Democrats, sensing a winning issue, have hammered House Republicans for their votes for a budget resolution sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that would bring major changes to the health care program for the elderly. Republicans counter that major changes to the program are needed to keep the nation on a sustainable fiscal path.

We checked two statements on the Ryan plan’s approach to Medicare -- one by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the other by liberal comedian and talk-show host Bill Maher.

The DCCC released a web ad in which seniors are shown running a lemonade stand, cutting the grass and even stripping at a bachelorette party -- all to raise money to pay for Medicare.

"Seniors will have to find $12,500 for health care because Republicans voted to end Medicare," the ad says.

We found that Ryan’s plan for Medicare is a dramatic change of course, but we didn’t agree with the contention that the proposal ends Medicare. For this and other reasons, we rated it Pants on Fire.

Meanwhile, Maher, during a panel discussion on his HBO television show, contended that under the Ryan proposal, people on Medicare will only have $15,000 from the federal government to spend on their health care.

We found that his description of the plan’s mechanics is not accurate. The average Medicare beneficiary in 2022 wouldn’t have $15,000 to spend on all health-care-related expenses -- they’d be given $15,000 to purchase a health insurance plan. That plan, in turn, would pay at least part of their medical bills. That plan might have limits and co-pays and deductibles -- as current Medicare does -- but the money the plan could spend on any given beneficiary’s health expenses would not be capped at $15,000 per year. The $15,000 limit only refers to what the government will pay for the insurance plan itself. We rated the statement False.

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